Neymar and Willian shine as Brazil defeat France
PARIS -- Neymar scored his 43rd international goal and midfielder Willian set up two as Brazil beat France 3-1 on Thursday in another step in rebuilding their credibility.
It was France's first defeat since last year's World Cup, where they lost to Germany in the quarterfinals. Brazil remain unbeaten since hosting that tournament, where they lost 7-1 to Germany in a semifinal shocker and were humbled 3-0 by the Netherlands in the third-place match.
"I'm trying to give the players confidence after the World Cup, and I'm trying to find a balance," Brazil coach Dunga said. "We played well and played with speed. We kept our shape well, we were compact. We made some mistakes, but once we got our balance right we were able to win."
Neymar latched onto Willian's clever pass behind the defence before rifling a quick and powerful shot into the roof of the net nearly an hour in. The fine finish was far removed from his sloppy shooting for Barcelona in Sunday's clasico, where he squandered chances, including one from four metres out.
After defender Raphael Varane headed France ahead in the 21st minute, midfielder Oscar equalised just before halftime with a crisp shot.
With Brazil pouring forward, midfielder Luiz Gustavo made it 3-1 in the 69th minute when he headed in Willian's corner.
"It was a tough defeat. They punished us for our mistakes and they're very quick up front," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "We knew we were up against a good side. We need to be sharper, more efficient."
The Brazilians are preparing for the Copa America in June, and have one remaining friendly, against Chile, on Sunday.
France, as hosts of next year's European Championship, are already qualified, and have only friendlies until then.
"Brazil are preparing for the Copa America, but our objectives are further away. It's good to be put in a difficult situation, we'll learn from it," Deschamps said. "We fought hard against a quality side. We struggled to get our game going in attack, although we did well from set-pieces. We could have done better, especially in terms of our passing."
France striker Karim Benzema should have scored in the seventh minute when he was left unmarked at the back post following a corner, but his powerful header from three metres out was somehow clawed away by goalkeeper Jefferson.
Neymar went close in the 20th minute when his curling strike from the edge of the penalty forced a fine save from Steve Mandanda.
A minute later, Varane timed his run perfectly to meet Mathieu Valbuena's corner from the left with a powerful downward header that Jefferson could not get a hand to.
France looked in control for much of the first half but was caught out in the 40th minute when forward Firmino was given too much time to reach a loose ball, and prodded it through to Oscar, who beat Mandanda with a low shot to the left.
Mandana dived low to his right to palm away Gustavo's shot from 20 metres as Brazil began the second half confidently.
He could not get close to Neymar's clinical strike moments later, and the game opened up at both ends after that goal.
France went close as Varane just failed to turn in a free kick; Benzema scooped a shot over after latching onto Valbuena's deep cross from the left; and forward Antoine Griezmann's long-range strike was acrobatically tipped wide by Jefferson.
Brazil hit straight back and, after Mandanda tipped away Oscar's curling effort for a corner, Willian took it, and Gustavo was unmarked to head home.